Image description: Four hands raised against an abstract background, each holding a banana, a stem of broccoli, a gym weight, an orange, and an apple respectively. End ID.
Image description: Four hands raised against an abstract background, each holding a banana, a stem of broccoli, a gym weight, an orange, and an apple respectively. End ID.

Illustration by Shahd Nigim

Realism vs. Idealism

So what will it be, your ideas or the reality?

Oct 15, 2023

So life, huh? How do so many of us live the same life yet see it so differently? Why do we see it differently? One reason is some of us have an ideal view of the world — an idealist’s perspective — and others see the real deal — a realist’s perspective.
A famous name associated with idealist thinking is Plato, also known as the father of idealism. At its core, idealism is the idea of scenarios of the world, which are not in the real world, but only in your mind. Realism is the unfiltered, per se, view of life. Imagination is not so common with realists in comparison to idealists, where imagination is their understanding of the world that may tend to be how idealists view life.
Over the course of this week, I interviewed three idealists and three realists where I asked all six of them the same question (not whilst they were around one another so that there would be no influence) and compared their answers. I will not lie, the responses were both interesting and sweet. Some of the interviews even go to show that realists and idealists are not all that different and that it is a spectrum. At the same time, if you want to know more about yourself, ask yourself these questions too and see how your answers compare to theirs, or if you agree with what was said or not.
Do you feel inspired more often, or motivated?
There was an immediate distinction between the two sides with the idealists feeling more inspired, and realists motivated. Interestingly though, one idealist and one realist had a different take on the question. One idealist claimed that motivation is what makes you want to take action, meanwhile inspiration makes you want something. The realist believes in obligation more than inspiration or motivation. Another idealist stated that inspiration is what keeps them working, however a realist argued that inspiration is easier to find than motivation.
What do you follow: your mind or your heart?
I was expecting another 50/50 split for this one, where the idealists chose heart and the realists chose mind. Instead, the realists chose their mind, and the majority of the idealists followed suit. As much as their emotions (heart) take over sometimes when they are making decisions, they still make their decisions based on what they think is right, rather than what they feel is right. Emotions still affect them but their final decision is carefully thought out, especially with one of them swaying more towards being analytical. The realists never brought up thinking about their emotions much when making decisions.
Should education develop to grow our potential, or should we be taught essential knowledge needed to survive?
I wanted to know if learning the foundations of anything is enough for us or if growth is better for our potential. Here, both sides agreed that education needs to be developed to help us in growing our potential; however, the idealists had a much stronger stance about it. One stating, “everything stems from education,” and another claiming the growth of potential begins from the stages of early childhood learning, not just institutional education. A realist made a similar claim when stating that without potential, there is no further development; meaning, problems will not be solved, leading to a stagnant and unsustainable world with no improvement.
How would you describe love? Do we need it?
Love is universal. We all need it and we all have it one way or another. Whether it is through giving love or receiving love, we need it. The way love was described by both the realists and idealists had a common positive look on it. “It is a misconception where you do not know you need it,” one realist stated. Interestingly, the idealists never spoke about romantic love. I am an idealist myself and one of the things I think of when it comes to love is romance, but the other idealists all clearly stated a focus on compassionate love.
Is world peace achievable?
One common impression that people have on realists is they are not as hopeful. They look at the world around them and make decisions based on what they see, not what they hope to see. The realists were pretty direct with stating, “no,” when asked about world peace, justifying it by describing what they see around them: selfishness, greed, grudges. To be fair, the idealists were also not so direct in saying, “yes, world peace is achievable,” but they all said they are hopeful about it, one even saying, “We should direct our focus on love and not hate.”
Do you believe in second chances?
All six interviewees believed in giving people second chances, however, the realists were quick to make comments like, “Second chance yes, but no third chance. If you don’t get it right a second time, you won’t get it right a third time.” They also spoke about how the second chance will be granted conditionally, depending on the severity of the action the other caused. The idealists had a different take, again, all the same, about how we should be aware of people being prone to making mistakes; meaning, we should be understanding towards them and allow them to try again to learn.
Is it good to look at life through rose colored lenses?
Everyone agreed on this point: it is good to be optimistic and positive about life but also to be careful not to fall into delusions because you will harm yourself in the process without realizing it. This is the best example to show how there are still overlaps between idealists and realists.
Do you like the way you see life?
Quick foreword: the intention behind this question is not to indicate which mindset is better. It was mainly asked out of interest. The idealists are all content with how they see life and feel like being an idealist is what helps them remain positive about life. On the other hand, realists are not so content with how they see life, but they feel more protected by their view since they have described it as not setting themselves up for false expectations.
I am under the impression that there is a 50/50 split in how idealists and realists go about life since there are many opinions that match, such as their views on looking at life through rose coloured lenses. This goes to show that not all realists are pessimistic (someone who always anticipates the worst) and not all idealists are delusional, as they say. Life is what we individually make of it, and whether we call ourselves an idealist or a realist is not the factor that makes or breaks our perspective on life.
Xandra Eid is Deputy Columns Editor. Email them at
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